WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Although the calendar hasn’t quite reached March yet, Saturday saw plenty of basketball madness at “Westchester’s Most Famous Arena” as some of the areas top teams squared off for a shot at a Section 1 title.
While college basketball soon will take center stage with “March Madness” fast approaching, it was the high school players – some of whom soon may play in the college basketball tournament – who shined on Saturday, with teams taking their shot at championship gold at the Westchester County Center.
An outside observer could have mistaken the arena's atmosphere for that of a Westchester Knicks or college game, with the crowd rising to its feet and cheering maniacally after each basket, blocked shot, defensive stop and timeout.
“It’s the championship! We’ve got to let our boys know we’re rooting for them,” Deanna Murray said while cheering on her nephew playing for Haldane. “The crowd looks sparse because the arena is so large, but we’re a passionate bunch.”
Going into his team’s Class C championship game against Hamilton, Haldane girls varsity coach Tyrone Searight said he was anxious because many of his inexperienced team's players hadn’t played at the County Center before.
His fears were unfounded as the Blue Devils, led by senior MVP Allie Monteleone – one of three players who had played under the spotlight before – rolled to a 60-38 victory. The top-seeded Haldane squad now will await the to-be-determined Section 9 champion, who they will face in the state semifinal at St. Mary’s College.
“Honestly, I was a little nervous at first, because we didn’t play in the semis and only have one senior. So I was skeptical we could get into the flow of things right away,” Searight said. “But we know what we need to do, and we were able to press and see where we needed to adjust.”
Haldane's boys team also took sectional supremacy, beating Tuckahoe 56-45.
Although he had no team in the tournament, basketball fan Randy Evans said he likes to come down to see the high school playoffs to get his sports fix without having to make the trek to Madison Square Garden to watch the 11-win Knicks.
“What better way to stay warm on a cold day than to watch some basketball? These (athletes) are playing for the right reasons, not for a paycheck,” the White Plains native said. “Give me a good college or high school game any day. Especially this year, because the Knicks are painful to watch.”
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